London Irish keen to keep hold of PhibbsBy Alan Manicom
February 13, 2013
London Irish are hoping to sign Pat Phibbs permanently when his loan deal from Leicester Tigers comes to an end this summer.
The 31-year-old Australian scrum-half has impressed hugely since joining the club in December as injury cover for Ireland international Tomas O’Leary.
Phibbs’ arrival has coincided with an upturn in the team’s fortunes in the new year and his quick delivery and solid decision-making has helped establish him as Exiles’ first-choice No. 9.
Director of rugby Brian Smith is eager to retain Phibbs’ services when his contract at Leicester expires at the end of the season.
Smith said: “We want to keep Paddy and we are in negotiations with his agent at the moment.
“You never scream out until the ink is dry on the paper, but he’s a good fit for us and I have a lot of time for him.
“He’s been a great influence.
“He’s filled Tomas’ shoes very well and provided a lot of input off the pitch as well, which is good.”
Negotiations are also continuing with prop Max Lahiff about extending his contract, and Smith confirmed he was hopeful of resolving the issue.
However, the futures of Jonathan Joseph, Matt Garvey and Jamie Gibson, who are also out of contract in the summer, remain uncertain.
Irish, though, are being linked with Rotherham centres Fergus Mulchrone and Eamonn Sheridan.
And Smith admitted the club are running the rule over several Championship players.
He continued: “We know about those guys and we are looking at players with Irish connections who are English qualified.
“But the requirements in the Championship are that you do not approach any of those players until March.
“The Championship continues to produce a lot of good players and there are probably more coming out of it than through Academy systems because the Championship is so competitive.
“You get guys who are self-starters, who have had to work hard and have not been molly-coddled.”
Forwards coach Glenn Delaney knows more than most about the talent that exists in the level below the Aviva Premiership from his previous job as director of rugby at Nottingham.
And Smith said: “We are doing our homework.
“Academy backs tend to come through a bit faster than academy forwards.
"The Championship is producing a lot of good players and we are tracking a lot of them.”
Relegation-threatened Irish have won five of their last six matches in all competitions and will be looking to move a step nearer safety when they visit Bath in the Premiership on Saturday.
Club captain Declan Danaher, Jon Fisher and Darren Allinson are all now fit and available, while new signing Setaimata Sa is expected to make his debut later this month.
Joseph (toe), David Paice (ankle), Alex Gray (finger) and Sailosi Tagicakibau (knee) are a week or two away from returning, while the leg injury Anthony Watson suffered on duty for England Under-20s will sideline him until April.
Scotland centre Joe Ansbro continues to make good progress after breaking his neck in a friendly against Munster in a pre-season game in Ireland last August.
Smith said: “He is in pretty good shape. His bones have now mended 70 per cent and he may be running with us towards the end of the season.”
But like O’Leary , who has a back injury, Ansbro will not be back in action before next season.